Opinion: St. Lawrence County IDA lending needs to benefit taxpayers, says Potsdam resident
Monday, March 20, 2017 - 7:53 am

To the Editor:

I have often written about tax-exempt properties. It turns out New York State is even worse than my past findings revealed.

The following information was compiled by the NY State Association of Towns. Much of this research was taken from an article published by Gannett Newspapers in the fall of 2016.

This article states that New York has a total land value of 2.8 trillion dollars. Of this amount, 866 billion is exempt from taxation. This equates to 31 percent of the entire state not paying property taxes, not the 25 percent I have previously reported.

In 1999, “religious“, un-taxed land totaled 14 billion dollars. By 2015, this almost doubled to 26 billion. In that same time frame, not- for- profit hospitals increased their non-taxable holdings from 13.1 billion, to 22.1 billion. Research further revealed that in 2014 many of these hospitals had a total of 2.6 billion invested in Central America, The Caribbean and other foreign countries.

It was found that all private New York State universities and colleges, if taxed, would have generated one billion dollars in 2016.

Another pertinent finding is that more than 4,600 deals were negotiated, and more than one billion in sales and property tax exemptions were granted in 2014 alone. A separate state report showed “little correlation” between private sector job growth and I.D.A. projects.

This last statement is of local concern this month, as the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency is holding a public hearing March 30 at 11 a.m. in the Civic Center, requesting Clarkson University receive one of these deals.

While I am not a financial expert and like many people, I will be working at that time, I hope members of both the press and the public will attend. I hope they ask how much money our county, town and school will be losing when sales and mortgage tax are removed from this project. I hope they ask how much of the funding is for profitable housing and revenue- generating recreational property.

The IDA should prove at this hearing that this lending will benefit the local tax payer, local workers and area businesses. If it cannot, I hope this bonding deal will be rejected by our county legislature.

In addition, please let your local government leaders know that you support the work of The Association of Towns, who will be pushing for tax-exemption reform this year.

Peggy Brusso

Potsdam